Rakuten allows you to book hotels through their Rakuten Hotels portal. Bookings made through this portal will automatically earn cash back and you'll receive special offers from time to time as well. If you're not loyal with any specific hotel chain, the Rakuten Hotels Portal can be a good alternate to booking your stays.
Using Rakuten Hotels
When you head to the Rakuten Hotel portal, you'll be able to start your hotel search by specifying a specific hotel or city/landmark.
The results will show the daily price of the hotel after the cash back you'll earn with Rakuten. If want to see the total price along with the total amount of cash back you'll earn, you'll have to hit 'Book Now' (don't worry, Rakuten will not charge you). You will then be asked to log in, and you'll land on the final page to complete your booking. The final price will be listed on this page and it will include the cost before and after taxes/fees are added. It will also show how much cash back you will be earning with Rakuten on the booking.
Rakuten Hotels vs Booking Direct
Booking a week at the DoubleTree By Hilton Nashville Downtown directly through Rakuten Hotels would cost a base price of $1,978.98 plus $316.80 in taxes for a grand total of $2,295.78. With this booking you would also be earning a total of $197.90 in cash back giving you a net cost of $2,097.88.
Jumping over to the Hilton website, the base price for the same booking at the DoubleTree By Hilton Nashville Downtown is $1,788.86 with a final price of $2,060.68 after fees and taxes.
So in this case, booking through the Rakuten Hotels portal would actual be $37 more expensive over booking directly with Hilton even with all the cash back you'll receive. So does that mean you should jump directly over to the Hilton website and book direct? Not at all because you can still earn money with Rakuten by booking the Hilton stay the normal way which is by going to Hilton by way of Rakuten.
You can go to Rakuten.com, bring up Hilton's Rakuten page and click 'Shop Now' to earn cash back with Rakuten at that cheaper price of $2,060.68.
In this particular example, based on your elite status in the Hilton Honors program you will earn either 1% of 2.5% cash back booking through Rakuten. Based on the base price of hotel which is $1,788.86, this means you'll earn around $17 or $44 in cash back from Rakuten. If you're a Hilton Honors members (which is free to sign up for), you'll also earn as low as 17,888 points (10x) as a basic member (Blue member) and as high as 35,777 points as a Hilton Diamond member. Hilton Honors Points are worth about 0.6 cents each so you're looking at a cash value of $107 to $214.
So lets recap:
- Booking directly through Rakuten Hotels is the most expensive option.
- Booking directly through Hilton will earn you a better rate and 17.8k-35.7k Hilton Honors Points.
- Booking Hilton through Rakuten's Cash Back Portal is the best of both worlds which will give cash back with Rakuten, the better booking rate, and the 17.8k-35.7k Hilton Honors Points.
I'm sure there are times in which booking through Rakuten Hotels can possibility come out cheaper in terms of overall hotel cost. Even with that being the case, booking through the portal will not earn you rewards with hotel loyalty programs and if you're chasing elite status with a hotel, you will likely not get credit for that either.
Then on the other hand, booking direct without using Rakuten will cause you to lose out on easy rewards that you would normally get booking through cash back portals. This leaves lots of money on the table, so avoiding the cash back portal altogether is not the way to go either.
The best option for those who want to earn cash back and hotel rewards will be to use Rakuten the normal way which is using the Shop Now button to book your hotel. This will give you the amount of cash back Rakuten is offering for that hotel and allow you to book your hotel as normal through the hotel's website. This means you'll earn hotel rewards points and credit towards earning elite status. If you have elite status, you'll also be able to enjoy the rewards and benefits that come with it by taking this route.
Be sure to look at the prices offered by other booking site and online travel agencies such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Hotels.com. Prices will tend to vary between these agencies so if you're not loyal to any specific brand and you're merely looking for the cheapest price, you'll want to compare your options. Lots of these sites also offer there own rewards, so you'll want to sign up if they do.